I decided that since I instituted March Ado About Nothing I ought to write some Much Ado related blog posts. To that end, I’ve been reflecting on some of the major themes of the story.
One major theme of Much Ado is trust. Thinking over the play, it seems that Shakespeare is asking us to consider who we trust and why. The primary drama of the play revolves around mistaken identity and misplaced trust. In order to create frustration and unhappiness, Don John sets up a scenario in which his half-brother and the engaged Claudio believe that they are seeing Claudio’s fiancee kissing another man in her bedroom window the night before her wedding. Now, Hero has a reputation as a virtuous woman, and Don John has only been brought back into his father’s (and brother’s) good graces recently.
Instead of choosing to trust what they know of Hero’s character, Claudio and Don Pedro choose to believe the unreliable Don John’s assertion of Hero’s fallen virtue. They see something, and they choose to believe the construction placed upon it by Don John-despite the fact that Don John is known to be of unreliable character.
Only Benedick is suspicious of the situation. Admittedly, he has not seen what his friends saw, but he mistrusts their claims that Hero is other than she says she is. Benedick says “And if their wisdoms be misled in this, The practice of it lives in John the bastard, Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies.” (IV, 1, 187-89) Benedick knows what Don John is, and he doesn’t trust him. It isn’t easy for him to challenge his friends on their belief, but he chooses to believe that they have been misled.
This is the main situation out of a few that bring the idea of trust into play. The means by which Hero is wooed for Claudio are a bit unorthodox and put Claudio’s trust of Don Pedro to the test. The circumstances by which Benedick and Beatrice are brought together are more than a little suspect. Shakespeare plays with his characters’ trust both of self and of those around them throughout the story. The moral of the story? Be careful who you trust. It may be your ruination or your redemption.